Monday, October 29, 2007

Strangers on a Train

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Bound for Delhi from Agra

Me, turning to the woman in the seat across the aisle: "I'm sorry that I don't speak Dutch, but would you like some walnuts?"

"I'm Swiss."

"Oh! I'm sorry. I thought that because of the CH sound --"

"Yes, we have the CH sound, too."

"I speak Hebrew, which also has a CH sound."

Anyhow, she doesn't want any walnuts, and I turn back to the package and scoop them into my yogurt sheepishly.

Pat returns from the bathroom and then I find a hair-ball in the walnut-package; Pat tries to soothe me that it must just be felt from the conveyer belt in the walnut factory, and then, sternly, "Sarah, rally!"

Very quietly, I tell Pat about the ignorant interchange I've just had, and Pat says, "When you said, 'I don't speak Dutch,' she should have said, 'Neither do I!'"

We burst into laughter. I don't want the women -- her friend has also now returned from the bathroom -- to think that we're laughing at them and so I turn to her with all the humility my face can express and tell her Pat's quip. She laughs and then explains what happened to her friend, who smiles.

I say, "I'm so embarrassed. I was trying to be sophisticated."

"I'm sure you are sophisticated, says the friend generously.

"Yeah, somewhere," chimes in Pat and we laugh some more.

"We're not the sort of Americans," I need to tell them, "who think it's fine that everyone speaks English."

"You wouldn't be travelling if you were," says the friend.

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